Space in the city

Imagine you get up as usual, have breakfast, get dressed and leave the house. You get in the car and start driving or set off walking the same way you go to work every day. You’re humming your favourite song, passing the same landmarks, thinking about nothing much as you turn in to pick up a coffee from your favourite coffee shop.

But wait… what’s this? It’s not there. The café three doors down isn’t there either, or the one on the other side of the street. Overnight, what used to be a buzzing little shopping area has become completely derelict.

It’s all very strange, but at least you can pick up a coffee when you get to work. Except that when you get there, work has disappeared too. In fact, every place nearby you used to rely on for food and drink, your entire livelihood, is gone. Just like that.

When the extreme becomes the everyday

This scenario may seem on the extreme side, but it’s something that’s happening more and more.

To bees.

Whenever a lawn is swapped for artificial grass, whenever a hedge gets ripped out to put a fence in, whenever a green space is tarmacked over – the places our essential pollinator pals are programmed to rely on for sustenance disappear.

Globally, it is expected that by the time we reach 2030, over a million extra square kilometres of urban land will have been added to the planet since the turn of the 21st century.[i]  That’s the equivalent of around 820 cities the size of New York.

If we want our cities to be part of the solution to the decline in bee populations – and the threat that poses to food production and the whole planet’s ecosystem – it’s time to apply some smart city thinking.

How green is your city?

As beneficial as it would be to build new parks and nature reserves in all urban areas, in most cities land is just too scarce to allow space for that. Yet the many benefits green areas can bring to communities, beyond supporting pollinating insects, are too great to pass up. And – as is often the case when it comes to smart cities – repurposing existing infrastructure could be key to making positive progress.

Over a decade ago, the Greater London Authority published a report researching a solution that could “enhance biodiversity, reduce the risk of flooding (by absorbing rainfall), improve a building’s thermal performance, thus reducing associated energy costs, help counter the Urban Heat Island Effect, support higher density more sustainable development and improve the appearance of the city.”

The title of that report? Living roofs and walls.[ii]

So it turns out that cities don’t necessarily need large, new expanses of green space to make a difference. Just lots of small pockets of plants, perched on roofs and climbing up walls, gradually growing a pathway through the urban jungle for the benefit of pollinators and people.

Bee-friendly bus stops put cities on the right route

One UK city that’s now walking the talk when it comes to re-greening our urban areas is Leicester, where living roofs are springing up across the city. As the inaugural project of a 10-year partnership with Clear Channel, the roofs of 30 bus stops are being planted up with bee-friendly wildflowers and succulents, helping to increase the vital stopping off points for pollinators.

In addition to the biodiversity benefits, it’s hoped the islands of greenery will contribute to improved wellbeing for locals passing by. And the solar panels and smart lighting also being introduced as part of the renovation of 479 bus stops by the end of 2022 will help lower the city’s carbon footprint.

Will Ramage, Clear Channel Managing Director said, “We know that true change comes when we start to roll out these types of innovation at scale. We’d love to see the Living Roofs in every town and city across the UK and Europe, having a tangible and positive effect on our planet.”[iii]

To find out more about the smart ways we’re helping to adapt cities’ infrastructures, get in touch.


[i] Quoted in ‘The effects of urbanization on bee communities’

[ii] Living Roofs and Walls – Technical Report: Supporting London Plan Policy

[iii] Quoted in Bee-Friendly Bus Stops Are the Latest Innovation to Save Our Pollinator Pals (